6 Common Outcomes of Worker Conflict & 6 Tips for Successful Resolution

August 17, 2016 by  

Once you are aware that employees are not getting along, you should be cognizant of the fact that there are 6 possible outcomes when trying to resolve any conflicts among co-workers. Once you are aware, you will be better able to deal with whichever one results from the situation.

Here are the 6 most common possibilities:
1. Both people work resolve their differences, rise above the issue, and mutually agree to move on.
2. Both people agree to disagree, get past the issue, and move on.
3. Both people say they have moved on, however, one or both secretly harbors continued ill will. As a result, the negativity continues less overtly and performance soon begins to decline.
4. One person “sucks it up” and acquiesces while the other seemingly “wins.” In this outcome, the conflict could continue so further strategies will need to be implemented.
5. The “wronged” party won’t budge and may need to be removed from the department and possibly let go. Unfortunately, some people are just unwilling to let an issue go and if this attitude is going to cause deeper issues within the organization, then they definitely need to leave.
6. The situation damages both workers and they both decide to leave.

You have likely encountered people in both your personal and professional life who always seem to be mired in drama and have a great propensity for dragging others into their issues. If you think: “Here we go again” regarding one of the employees involved in a conflict, then that’s probably a sign that this person needs to change their attitude or be terminated. You, of course must discuss this with them and offer them the opportunity to change how they deal with certain situations. However, if there is no change, and with some people that is going to likely be the case, then the only choice is to let them go.
Managers who delight in intra-departmental friction are setting themselves and their team up for the establishment of a very toxic work environment which will end up with high turnover, high absenteeism, and lowered performance by everyone. Unless you are a professional athlete, work is not a sport and employees should not be treated like pawns in a game. Friendly competition is one thing, but pitting one employee against another and hoping the competition will foster higher performance is just wishful thinking and often the opposite will be the result.

Some would argue that creative tension among co-workers can yield superior results due to the rivalry that is formed. While this might be true in a project, it can easily set up a permanent “us-versus-them” culture that could certainly devolve into a damaging conflict.
In addition, if you allow conflict to linger without addressing it, one of the workers, or both, or even an uninvolved third worker, could go above you to your superior or to the HR person, thus making an already uncomfortable situation much worse. The implications should be clear: “This was brought to your attention, and you either chose to ignore it (not a wise choice) or didn’t know how to deal with it (does not make you look competent). This could backfire on the two in conflict, but it could also damage your reputation and bring unwanted scrutiny on your team on how you manage them.

Here are 6 Tips for Resolving and Preventing Worker Conflict:
Each situation will, of course be different, however, here are some strategies to effectively deal with any worker conflicts and how they might avoid these sorts of situations in the future.

1. Meet with the workers who are in conflict to see if you can help to remedy the situation. Do this as quickly as possible so as to avoid letting it fester and spiral out of control.
2. Inform your superior of the situation so that he/she is not unprepared for or surprised by any disciplinary actions that may be necessary to be implemented presently or in the future.
3. Involve the HR manager, when necessary, possibly as an independent mediator, to put the conflicting employees on notice or probation, or finally, to begin transfer arrangements to another department or location.
4. Promote and foster a work environment of respect, tolerance, and civility within the organization.
5. Maintain open, honest, and clear communication with your employees. Freely share any information and updates about the company and your particular department in order to reduce and even eliminate any need for gossip and rumors.
6. Review the policies on the use of company email and social media sites. Realize that some disgruntled employees might post their dissatisfaction online either within or outside of the company. Review the company’s electronic media policies and clearly communicate them to all the employees.

If you employ the above approaches and appreciate the noted possible outcomes, you will likely be able to handle the conflict situations more effectively and ensure more positive outcomes. In this way you will have a far better chance of establishing and maintaining a positive, respectful, and supportive working environment for your team. This result will also promise more success for everyone!

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